The Challenge of Contracting

For most of my career I’ve been a full time employee (W-2 in the US) or worked for myself with my own business. I’ve rarely been a consultant or contract (1099) employee, and what experience I had with those situations didn’t suit me. I don’t like the lack of security and certainly don’t like being responsible for the sales portion of finding work.

Many people like contracting, and in fact, some make a career of it. There are companies that help you find work, and many large companies employ people for years as contract workers. There’s an interesting article on the impact of this at Ars Technica. It looks more at hotels and other service work, but this is common for technology workers as well, especially at many of the large, common names. If you look through the comments, you’ll find a few examples.

I do think this is starting to be something that workers have to contend with, and it’s been obvious how hard this is over the last month. This might be especially true as companies can find ways to better specify work and hire people for their expertise at less than full time hours. This does save them a lot of long term costs and commitment, which is a change from what I expected when graduating from university.

I’ve said this in a few talks, but ultimately I believe that each of us should be treating all jobs as temporary, ensuring that you take care of yourself and plan for your future. While a company might provide benefits and some retirement help, you should ensure you are paying attention and saving where you can. In the US, healthcare is a mess and expensive for contract workers. Outside the US things are better in some places, but you should still ensure you plan to take care of yourself if the company doesn’t.

It has always been hard for workers throughout history. Many companies exist to make profits for their management and owners, often at the expense of workers’ treatment. Despite that, there are some amazing companies out there that do a better job of existing as a partnership with workers than others. My employer, Redgate Software, is one of those, and I’m lucky to work there. We’re hiring, good luck if you apply, and tell them I sent you.

I hope all of you reading this can find a good employer that treats you well and gives you work you enjoy doing each day. If you don’t  have that, invest in yourself, work on your tech and soft skills, apply for jobs, be diligent in your questioning of the hiring team, and cross your fingers. There are great employers out there, and best of luck in finding one for yourself.

Steve Jones

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